Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yes, you are a foreigner

Sometimes I forget we are living in a foreign country. Australia is as western and modern as the US, the language is English, and the life here is very similar to life in America. There are the obvious differences of course; the accents, the driving on the left side of the road, the fact that December is hot and beautiful but July is miserable and cold…etc. etc. There are also many cultural differences, but it's probably far easier for an American to get used to living in Australia than somewhere like Japan or India.

So, naturally, we expect most things to be the same as in America and often find it a bit surprising when they are not. I also forget that I'm the foreigner!

Yesterday I was at a hospital to run a clinic. I went out to get a patient with a very simple name.
I went to the lobby and called out the name of the patient..
The 20 or so people in the waiting room didn't budge.
I called the name again. (These wasn't his real name, but let's just say the name was as simple as John Smith)
Again, no one moved.
I figured the patient must have taken a moment to use the toilet or run and grab a coffee at the shop next door.
So, I waited 10 minutes and returned to the lobby.
I called his name again.
No response.
He was my last patient to check, so I continued to wait.
Finally, I went to the scheduler's desk and let them know that "John Smith" probably wasn't going to arrive.
The scheduler informed me that he had checked in 20 minutes ago.
Finally, she said, "Let me help you."
She came out to the waiting area with me and repeated the name.
"John Smith", she said.
A gentleman who had been there THE WHOLE TIME stood up and came forward to us.
Now she didn't say this guys name any different than I had but he understood her and not me!
How hard is it to say "JOHN SMITH" anyway…and don't you stand up for just about anything that sounds remotely close to your actual name?
Eric's last name is Tjossem…people butcher that all the time and he still knows it's his name when someone calls it out.
The only excuse that the guy gave was that he didn't understand my strong Irish accent.

We needed to have some documents certified for tax purposes. I figured I'd just find a notary public.
"A what?" said my coworkers.
Apparently, document certification is done here at the police station. So, yesterday after my patient not understanding my accent issue, I went to the local police station to get my certification.
I went to the public affairs room at the police station and waited in line with all the other foreigners for document certification. What I needed certified was every page of my passport to file with my Australian taxes. It was bizarre that I needed copies of my passport for tax reasons and bizarre how they were certified.

I returned to my office and had to tell me colleagues how strange I felt the whole experience had been. They didn't get it. They asked again about how it works in America and I tried to explain the notary public thing.

Have you ever tried to explain what a Notary Public is?

"So, it can be anyone", they asked?
"How do you find one?"
"They aren't police?"
"How do you trust them?"
And finally, "They charge a FEE??? That's outrageous!"

I guess when I think about it, the police certification makes a bit more sense.


Thursday was Thanksgiving in America. Thursday here was just a regular old work day.

I miss the American holidays: Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, President's Day, and the 4th of July.
The holidays of "Cup Day, Australia Day, and Anzac weekend" are inadequate substitutes. It's like trying to celebrate Christmas without your own family traditions. You kind of miss them.

It was a stormy and muggy here on Thanksgiving Day and I had a long day at work. Two lightening strikes over the hospital shorted out the power in the surgery suite and we had a 15 minute "break" where we all just stood around in the emergency lighting making chit chat while waiting for the power to return so we could use the x ray equipment. (Yes, there was a patient quietly sleeping on the table in front of us).

The surgeon started to ask me about Thanksgiving and what it all meant. Everyone else started to pitch in with their questions as well. I should probably have had better answers.
"So, it was a harvest dinner to welcome the pilgrims?"
"But didn't the pilgrims then start to kill off the Indians?"

I didn't really know where to go from that question.

*Note to self: Become very informed about American holiday traditions, US health care system, government policies, government structure, and past presidents. People will ask you and if you have inadequate answers, you will feel silly.


ASinykin said...

Happy Thanksgiving Beth & Eric... You know it gets hard to start explaining anytinng you've always known when the toddlers start asking quesitons. Maybe Melbourne is just preparing you for Madden's future inquiries. :)

AKS said...

What is Cup Day? Are cups celebrated or is it some sort of soccer thing? From your Facebook posting it appeared that at least you had Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving! We missed seeing your smiling faces this Thanksgiving... Love you lots!

P.S. After 10 years of being back in the U.S., I still feel like a foreigner some days : )

Jenni said...

Love the new header!

Cute post - I'd have never guessed a "strong Irish accent" (haha!) would be so hard to decipher either.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

tracey said...

of course, you can always make up answers! I am sure I did that a time or two while we were there.

and we only tried to do Thanksgiving once, tiny turkey that cost about 40 bucks (that really I think was a big chicken) and it was pretty sad. I have pictures to prove it.

jason said...

you should have told them that Thanksgiving is the day we celebrate our ancestors decision to take over the world culture:)

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